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In re Marriage of Holtkamp

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 24, 2018


          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, John G. Linn, Judge.

         Ashley Holtkamp appeals from the decree dissolving her marriage to Nathan Holtkamp.

          Marlis J. Robberts of Robberts & Kirkmann, LLLP, Burlington, for appellant.

          Michael D. Clark of Clark & Schroeder, PLC, North Liberty, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.


         Ashley Holtkamp appeals from the decree dissolving her marriage to Nathan Holtkamp. She argues the trial court erred in finding their prenuptial agreement enforceable and in establishing Nathan's visitation schedule with the parties' minor children. Because Ashley failed to prove the prenuptial agreement was executed involuntarily, was procedurally unconscionable, or lacked a financial disclosure, we agree with the district court that the prenuptial agreement is enforceable. Additionally, we modify the visitation schedule on Tuesday nights and weekends and otherwise agree the visitation schedule is in the best interests of the children. Therefore, we affirm the decree as modified.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Nathan and Ashley Holtkamp married on May 13, 2006. The marriage produced two children, born in September 2006 and December 2007.

         Nathan was born in November 1968. He graduated from high school in 1987, and he began building his highly successful trailer repair business while still in high school. At the time of trial, he had owned and operated Holtkamp Trailer Repair as a sole proprietorship for approximately thirty years. According to his May 9, 2006, Personal Financial Statement, he had a total annual income of $600, 000 and Holtkamp Trailer Repair had a present net value of $2, 750, 000. According to his tax returns, he reported gross receipts of $574, 969 in tax year 2006, which grew to $1, 325, 013 in tax year 2015.[1] He has previously divorced twice after marriages of five years each, and he was previously engaged to two other women without marrying either.

         Ashley was born in July 1981. She graduated from high school in 2000 and became a licensed cosmetologist in 2001. She worked as a cosmetologist and as a paraeducator in the local school before and after the marriage. The district court noted her income in 2016 was $7437.

         One of the issues on appeal is the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement, which both parties signed on May 11, 2006, two days before the wedding. Among its provisions, the agreement states both parties shall retain separate ownership of the property and liabilities they separately acquired both before and during the marriage. The agreement also states that, in the event of dissolution, each party shall have no interest in the other's separate property. The separately-owned property acquired prior to marriage specifically includes the personal property listed in Nathan's attachment titled "Personal Financial Statement." Additionally, the agreement states each party "has received full and complete answers to all questions the other has asked about the other's income and assets," and "each has carefully considered their right to be represented by separate attorneys."

         The parties offered differing testimony about the events preceding the signing of the prenuptial agreement. According to Ashley's testimony, she met Nathan around May 2005, they began dating in August 2005, and a couple months later she moved from her parents' home into Nathan's home. They became a serious couple in November 2005 when he gave her a ring, and they had set their wedding date by Christmas 2005. She learned she was pregnant with their first child in mid-January 2006. Also in January 2006, she began planning for their "very small wedding" with about fifty guests at their home. She first learned he wanted her to sign a prenuptial agreement on the morning of May 11. However, she claimed Nathan simply told her she "needed to sign something because he was going to get sued and" the document would protect them. Later that afternoon, she met him at the office of attorney Bryan Schulte, who had drafted the agreement for Nathan. She was inside the office for about fifteen minutes, during which time she met with Nathan and Schulte, they read through the agreement, and she signed it. She claimed no one told her she should consult another lawyer before signing; she did not know what a prenuptial agreement was, she did not understand the importance of the document, and she never received a copy of the document until these divorce proceedings.

         Nathan presented a very different account of the events leading up the signing of the prenuptial agreement. He testified he bought Ashley's engagement ring in early November 2005; however, she did not begin wearing the ring until Christmas 2005. They became engaged around Christmas 2005, but they did not discuss marriage at the time. To him, "engaged" means "[t]hat possibly you would get married, that you're a couple." They only began discussing marriage after they learned she was pregnant in January 2006. Ashley and her parents then began pressuring him to marry her before she gave birth to their child. In late March or early April 2006, he told her he would marry her but only if she signed a prenuptial agreement. He denied telling her the agreement was meant to protect them from a lawsuit. From his standpoint, Ashley indicated she understood the agreement and told him "she didn't want anything of mine, business and/or anything like that, that she wasn't that type of person; she knew she was coming into the marriage with nothing." He recalled Schulte gave her a chance to read the agreement, offered to let her take it to another attorney, and offered to give her a copy. She declined the offers of consulting another attorney or receiving a copy, and "she scanned through some of it" and signed it.

         Fast forward to September 15, 2015, when Ashley filed the petition for dissolution of marriage. The prenuptial agreement made its appearance during the discovery phase of these proceedings and became a primary issue during trial and now on appeal. Trial was held on January 10, 11, and 12, 2017. On April 12, the court issued the decree of dissolution, which decided the prenuptial agreement was enforceable, granted physical care of the children to Ashley, and entered a schedule for the children to visit Nathan overnight on Tuesdays and alternating weeks in the summer. Both parties then filed motions asking the court to reconsider or enlarge its decree, which the court subsequently denied on May 16. Ashley now appeals, arguing the court erred in finding the premarital agreement enforceable and in establishing the visitation schedule.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review dissolution proceedings de novo. In re Marriage of Shanks, 758 N.W.2d 506, 510 (Iowa 2008). Our de novo review extends to "issues concerning the validity and construction of premarital agreements." Id. at 511. "We give weight to fact findings of the district court, particularly as to witness credibility, but are not bound by them." Id.

         III. ...

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